Belonging—it’s been on my mind recently.

The way the word longing is in the midst of it. The way we respond—and don’t—when an invitation to belong comes our way. We want it, we want to belong, but…when the wholeness of the risk involved comes into view, we often hesitate, if not freeze.

Paul spoke of belonging and counting the gain and even the loss of everything (including belonging) as nothing compared to knowing the Messiah, but I have to wash my mind again from time to time in the whole of what he said. He wrote beautifully of wanting to know Messiah and the power of being risen from the dead, sharing not only in his power but also his sufferings.

It reminds me of marriage vows…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others…

This mindset of wholeness is often lost on me at first. When the unpleasant comes and I want the feel good parts of belonging and shrink away when it becomes clear that suffering is the road to resurrection. The big saying these days is that we need to, “remember our why”. Paul knowing that resurrection was beyond him said that he presses on to make it his own, because Messiah had made him, his own. Belonging. It was Paul’s why.

It allowed him to forget what was behind and keep vision for the course.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
    he browses among the lilies. -Song of Songs 6:3

Lilies sound pleasant. But where is the darling of the beloved found?

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women. -Song of Songs 2:2

This is a freeing truth. To know when we are invited into the belonging that includes thorns, it is part of a design, and the design is good—we can keep our vision too. This is the door that opens the way to being able to say with Joseph, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” This is the fueling vision behind Paul saying further, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.

Belonging changes everything. Knowing we are loved, changes everything. And in the same way Adonai’s love transforms everything, so can ours. This is how Christians suffering persecution can look on their persecutors as givers of gifts, bringers of beauty. They are looking through eyes of belonging, so everywhere they look that is what they see. They see Who they belong to. They see He is near. They sing.

My beloved is mine and I am his;
    he browses among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved,
    and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
    on the rugged hills.

-Song of Songs 2:16-17

Belonging changes everything.

When we enter into the suffering of our family, next door neighbors or across the ocean, we enter into a love story. Don’t be surprised when our hearts burn within, don’t be afraid. We are children of the burning heart. We belong. We have an ever present help, so we cry out.

Raynna, for The Martyrs’ Cross family
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